French cop sentenced to prison for crooked dealings

A French gendarme who lived life fast and loose, with a Porsche and corner-cutting methods, was sentenced to prison for five years Thursday by a court on the Mediterranean island of Corsica.

Francois-Philippe Levan, 42, was found guilty of pocketing seized drugs, tipping off criminals to police investigations and illegal wire taps.

The former head of Corsica's elite investigations unit in the port city of Bastia before being promoted to a post on the French Riviera, Levan -- who was nicknamed "The Chinaman" for his Vietnamese heritage -- left the police force in 2010 as charges piled up against him.

During the three-day trial he denied nearly all allegations against him and his defence lawyers tried to portray his crimes as bold investigation tactics that necessarily crossed the boundaries of the law.

He drew attention with his lavish lifestyle, driving a Porsche and buying a luxury villa in southern France.

An investigation into a racketeering ring on Corsica suggested he provided information to a suspected mafia member.

As that probe progressed, other shady dealings came to light, resulting in a thick, 12-volume list of charges against him.

Among them, the prosecution said he signed false documents vouching that 100 kilos of seized cannabis resin had been destroyed when in fact he allegedly removed the drugs from police custody and sold them.

He was also convicted of illegally tapping phones on behalf of mafia-linked clients who allegedly paid 100 euros per victim per day for the service.

He was acquitted of other charges, including drug-related crimes, corruption and abuse of power.

Levan's lawyers said they would appeal the conviction.